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10 Ohio Holiday Light Displays

The shortest days of the year call for light and lots of it. These 10 displays throughout the Buckeye State offer great places to embrace the spirit of the season.

Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill, Clifton
Offering a festive glimpse into Christmases past, the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill has been a southwest Ohio tradition for more than three decades. The red mill is adorned with 4 million lights that outline the windows, roof, walls and cascade down the riverbank. Visitors can explore the outdoor, on-site miniature town and an indoor collection of more than 3,000 depictions of Santa Claus. A four-minute synchronized light show, which incorporates the covered bridge on the property, happens every hour on the hour. Visit website for dates, hours and times. 75 Water St., Clifton 45316, 937/767-5501, cliftonmill.com

Scioto Mile (photo by Randall L. Schieber)
Scioto Mile Lights, Columbus
Aglow with miniature colored lights shining from trees and more than 150 LED spotlights in hues of vibrant red, blue, green and purple, the Scioto Mile offers a colorful diversion for holiday visitors to our capital city. The 175-acre green space along the Scioto River, which runs through the center of downtown, offers great skyline views. Cruise along Civic Center Drive, which links Broad and Main streets, or walk the pedestrian trail and sit on the benches and swings along the way. For more information, visit sciotomile.com/holiday-lights

Wadsworth Griswold House (photo courtesy of owners)
Griswold House, Wadsworth
It’s the sort of over-the-top lighting display that would make Clark Griswold proud. It should. He inspired it. Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, 173 Duane Lane in the Medina County city of Wadsworth transforms from an unassuming home to a must-see tribute to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” featuring 25,000 lights. The home’s owners, Greg and Rachel Osterland, use the display to raise awareness and money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and its Great Strides walk. Visit website for dates and times. 173 Duane Lane, Wadsworth 44281, facebook.com/wadsworthgriswoldhouse

Upper’s Winter Fantasy of Lights, Upper Sandusky
With displays including “The 12 Days of Christmas” and a “Wizard of Oz”- inspired Emerald City, Upper’s Winter Fantasy of Lights has been entertaining visitors since 1997. The mile-long, drive-through display that covers over 33 acres at Harrison Smith Park takes about 30 minutes to see and travelers can tune into WVLO 99.3 FM to listen to a variety of Christmas music. Visit website for dates, hours and prices. 525 E. Wyandot Ave., Upper Sandusky 43351, uppersfantasyoflights.org

Deck the Hall in Akron (photo by Ian-Adams)
Deck the Hall, Akron
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens comes alive with holiday cheer as the former estate of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. founder F.A. Seiberling and his family is transformed for the holiday season. Guests are greeted by a 25-foot-tall Christmas tree in the courtyard, and this year the manor house offers one way, self-guided tours of the first floor of the 65-room Tudor Revival Manor House. The outdoor light show choreographed to festive tunes offers a beautiful backdrop for walking the 70-acre grounds. Visit website for dates, times and ticket availability. 714 N. Portage Path, Akron 44303, 330/836-5533, stanhywet.org

Toledo Zoo and Aquarium Lights Before Christmas, Toledo
The Toledo Zoo & Aquarium Lights Before Christmas display features more than 1 million individual bulbs and fills the 51-acre grounds. Guests can enjoy the holiday scene right when they arrive, as they are greeted by lights in the parking lot. The display then extends throughout the entire zoo, guiding visitors past animal enclosures while bringing in seasonal elements such as an ice slide, carousel and more. Visit website for dates, times and prices. 2 Hippo Way, Toledo 43609, 419/385-4040, 419/385-4040, toledozoo.org/lights

Light Up Middletown (photo courtesy of Light Up Middletown)
Light Up Middletown
When locals set up more than a dozen illuminated displays around the pond at Smith Park in 1999, it began as a fairly simple production. More than 20 years later, the popular holiday attraction has grown to more than 75 pieces assembled each year by a group of volunteers. Work begins around Oct. 1 to create Santa’s Workshop, “The 12 Days of Christmas,” a Nativity scene and a reindeer display. A new light installation has been added in recent years: a crane pouring molten steel into a bucket — a nod to Middletown’s proud steel-producing heritage. Visit website for dates, times and prices. 500 Tytus Ave., Middletown 45042, lightupmiddletown.org

Christmas by Candlelight, Marion
An annual tradition since 1996, central Ohio’s Christmas by Candlelight at the Marion County Fairgrounds features more than 25 acres of holiday displays, ranging from an illuminated water serpent to a live Nativity scene on December weekends performed by members of different churches. A visit takes about 30 minutes and guests who didn’t get their fill the first time through have the option to make a second loop free of charge. Visit website for dates and hours. 220 E. Fairgrounds St., Marion 43302, 740/382-2558, marioncountyfairgrounds.com

PNC Festival of Lights (photo by Derek Dammann)
PNC Festival Of Lights, Cincinnati
Featuring more than 4 million LED bulbs across approximately 80 acres, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s annual festival has been a Cincinnati tradition since 1983. Preparation begins in early August and the display includes fun and whimsical entertainment areas, including North Polar Express train ride and a Wild Lights show on Swan Lake. Stop by the S’mores N’ More stands and enjoy an appearance by Santa. Visit website for dates, times and prices. 3400 Vine St., Cincinnati 45220, 513/281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org

Lights on Public Square, Cleveland
Showcased in the opening scene of the 1983 holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” Public Square in downtown Cleveland is a holiday favorite. Now with more than 500,000 individual bulbs, the display embraces the spirit of the holiday season with its traditional towering Christmas tree, ice rink, and freestanding light displays, ranging from igloos and penguins to snowflakes and polar bears. Visit website for dates and times. 50 Public Square, Cleveland 44113, clevelandpublicsquare.com

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